Alec Baldwin likely to be recharged with manslaughter after tests on gun suggest trigger was pulled

Originally published at: Alec Baldwin likely to be recharged with manslaughter after tests on gun suggest trigger was pulled | Boing Boing

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This whole thing is a shitshow.

The armorer is definitely responsible, but Baldwin shouldn’t have accepted a firearm without the armorer on set. There are standard safety rules for handling firearms on set, and failing to obey them creates a hazard. And thus, yes, even as a castmember, you have a responsibility for the safety of firearms usage on set.


Can’t stand Baldwin (even though he is a great comedic actor, and Hunt for Red October is one of my favorite guilty pleasure movies), but this is crazy, there’s no way in which he’s responsible…the armorer certainly is, and she’s had to deal with her own criminal charges, but Baldwin is not, and doesn’t bear legal culpability. This is just the local DA wanting to be seen Doing Something™.


As an actor in a shooting scene, wouldn’t he be expected to pull the trigger…? :confused:


To put it another way, everyone is responsible for safety. Safety is never someone else’s job. Obviously the armorer is the most responsible but Alec could and should have checked the gun before pointing it at someone and pulling the trigger.

Why do they have real ammo on sets these days? There have been a few disasters like this and I’m sure many more close calls we don’t hear about. I also wonder why they don’t set guns up for blank firing only. Use a barrel that’s partly obstructed so a blank could discharge but a bullet could not.


I have to think this an attention grab, rather than a real trial attempt. When you had to stop the case because the object in question was destructively analyzed but now you’ve put it together, without being able to prove it was that way in the first place, makes a prosecution’s case super weak.


Totally agree.

I like the goal, but I’m afraid in the case of a live round being used, this could lead to “uncontrolled disassembly” of the weapon, and injury to anyone standing near. I’d prefer a method that prevents live rounds from being loaded at all. Maybe a chamber insert that requires a non-standard size that only blanks are manufactured in.


Based on what I’ve read about the case, the only way it really makes any sense to hold him responsible for this tragedy is in his capacity as producer, not as the guy who was holding a loaded gun. Whether or not he actually pulled the trigger seems almost irrelevant in this case. A random actor who was handed what they were told was a “cold” (unloaded prop) gun shouldn’t be expected to be a firearms safety expert who could independently verify that for themselves. But a producer does bear some responsibility for creating a safe working environment for everyone on set, and there were definitely reports that the production didn’t take earlier close-calls seriously enough.


That’s also a very good idea. Make blanks shorter than loaded cartridges. Or even modify it for sub-caliber blanks, like 22 blanks, that are overall less dangerous. It would take a bit of gunsmithing but come on, with all the effort and money that goes into making movies, they can afford to put some effort into not shooting anyone on the set.

As for unplanned disassembly, guns are amazingly resistant to blowing up due to an obstructed barrel. This guy tried a whole bunch of barrel obstructions, including literally welding it shut at about 17:00, and he badly damaged the gun but didn’t get it to explode catastrophically. Obviously, different guns may have different results, but this does suggest welding a big enough partial obstruction in the barrel is a very good idea.


I once had an new assistant director tell the crew that the firearm wrangler was the only one who should ever stop or interfere with anything involving the set gun. I interrupted with “Well if I see something dangerous I’m going to say stop”, and the AD doubled down and said “that’s not your job so don’t”.

“Only trust the experts” falls apart when those experts aren’t everywhere all at once.


Or don’t even let it be loaded at all with anything. Let stuff get added in post.


Without extreme closeup shots, you should be able to tell by his eyes.

And the kind of shot that might appeal to … firearms enthusiasts… can be done by cutting to a closeup under more controlled conditions… Sure, it’s not a seamless uninterrupted shot, but that would be insane.

I don’t quite understand why this keeps being referred to as a prop gun. If you put a real bullet in it and it will actually fire it, that’s just… a gun. They’re just handing actors loaded guns and depending on the ammo being fake. Is this an industry lingo thing, where it means something different than common usage? If an actor wears shoes that haven’t been modified in any way as part of their costume, do those automatically become prop shoes?


You can’t expect the cast to bear any responsibility at all without training, though - and I don’t know they got any. It would have been the responsibility of the armorer, so I rather expect not. There should have been an armorer on set every minute guns were in use, to guarantee safety and compliance with previously established rules. (This stuff isn’t obvious - prop bullets that don’t fire are floating around sets, blanks can kill people, etc.) Cast should have about as much responsibility for gun safety as they do for electrical and building safety - the most minimal amount, as there are other people whose jobs are to be responsible for that.

Yeah, exactly - and whether he touched the trigger shouldn’t be relevant to that.

My understanding is that there are prop guns capable of only firing blanks, used frequently in the film industries of countries where guns are actually controlled. In the US, real guns are (significantly) cheaper, so as a cost-saving measure those get used. It’s actually a big step up for Hollywood, because blanks are more expensive than real bullets, and there was a time (up through the '30s at least) when people firing large numbers of live bullets on film sets was not uncommon.


Yeah, it’s basically the industry language intended to communicate how something is used in a production, not whether not it’s a “real” object. Most objects that are kept in studio prop houses are basically real and unmodified. An actor using a flashlight on screen is handling a “prop” flashlight, even if a production assistant or grip elsewhere on set is using the exact same type of flashlight for its intended purpose.

If there happened to be armed security on a set then an actor playing around with the security guy’s gun would just be an asshole playing with a gun.

In the case of the shoes worn by an actor on screen they’re not props but they are “costume” items whether or not they were originally made or modified for screen.


If the actor is expected to manipulate the shoes on stage/set, they’re props. If the actor simply wears them onto stage, they are costume.


Not really. The chain of responsibility goes 1st Assistant Director (the on set safety officer), Prop Master (who is responsible for the whereabouts and conditions of all props), then Armorer (the subordinate of the Prop Master specifically tasked with making sure a prop firearm is safe for use on the set). Actors are not part of the chain here.

A prop gun just means a gun which is manipulated by actors on a set. It could be a dummy gun which can’t fire anything, a blank firing gun which is modified to only accept blanks (which are deadly at point blank range), actual live firing guns or airsoft replicas.

Airsoft replicas are the standard for decent budgeted films these days where CGI muzzle flashes are put in. (John Wick films and Saving Private Ryan used non-firing replicas)

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Except that’s not what’s happening here, and not what happened when he was charged with involuntary manslaughter. These are criminal charges. A producer would not be criminally liable in a case like this except in really extraordinary circumstances. If the argument is that he’s liable in his capacity as a producer, then that would be a civil tort, not a criminal charge. And the film has many producers, and they all could then potentially be liable. But again, that’s not what’s happening. They are talking about charging him criminally on the basis that he pulled the trigger. He didn’t do that in his capacity as producer. Now, do I think he’s going to be found guilty? I have no idea. It’s going to be highly dependent on very specific facts surrounding what happened that day. There are a lot of people in this thread speaking with near absolute certainty that they know what happened. We don’t. Why were there real bullets on the set? How did they get in the gun? Was the armorer present? Did she clear the gun? Did she tell Baldwin that it was clear? Did she tell anyone it was clear? What were the accepted industry standard practices for the handling of prop weapons like that? Were those standards followed on this set and on this day? I’ve seen a lot of people making assumptions about all those questions, but we don’t actually know the answers to most of those. Some people here may know about industry standard practices, but the rest is specific to this incident, and none of us were there. I personally find it unlikely that Baldwin was responsible, but I don’t know that. And neither does anyone else here. If he is charged, and if this goes to court, then maybe we’ll get answers.


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